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Aberystwyth University
University of Wales, Aberystwyth Archive

Reference code(s): GB 0982 UWA

Held at: Aberystwyth University

Title: University of Wales, Aberystwyth Archive

Short Title: University of Wales, Aberystwyth Archive

Creation date(s): 1824-[ongoing]

Level of description: fonds

Extent: 27.9 cubic metres

Name of creator(s): University of Wales, Aberystwyth


Administrative/Biographical history: Established in 1872, the University College of Aberystwyth was the first university institution founded in Wales. Its establishment was prompted by the inadequacies of the further education system in Wales during the nineteenth century. The main concern was the absence of a university, apart from the country's various theological colleges. The campaign for a university began in the early 1850s, but was sidetracked by the foundation of a teaching college in Bangor. In 1863, it was revived by one of the university's most prominent supporters, Sir Hugh Owen. As leader of the campaign, he felt that it's failure to capture the public imagination had caused great damage, and that by this point the establishment of an university was a matter of great urgency.
In 1867, Owen and his collaborators made a decisive move, and bought, with the little money they had raised, an unfinished, recently bankrupted hotel on the Aberystwyth sea front. It was hoped that the physical existence of a home for the university would encourage people to join the campaign. Appeals were made to the public for personal contributions, and the people of Wales, especially the inhabitants of Aberystwyth, quickly responded. As a result of this popular effort in collecting "the pennies of the poor", the university finally did become a reality. It opened at what is now the Old College, in 1872, with a mere 25 students, and was formally incorporated by Royal Charter in 1889.
The University's initial mission was limited - merely the establishment in Wales of a non-denominational university to bring education to the masses. The first Principal, Thomas Charles Edwards (1872-91), saw the university through its infancy. He steered it through the disastrous implications of the 1881 Aberdare report on Intermediate and Higher Education in Wales, ensuring its survival despite the establishment of University Colleges in Bangor for North Wales and Cardiff for South Wales. 1894 saw the unification of all three colleges into the University of Wales. Edwards also ensured that the college survived the testing times that followed the fire of 1885, co-ordinating the resultant re-building programme.
Subsequent years saw a continuous increase in both students and members of staff at Aberystwyth. The range of subjects taught also rapidly expanded. Halls of residence and new facilities were being built, and student societies were also appearing and developing, providing a busy social life for Aberystwyth students. The work of academic departments also developed from the original remit of teaching students, to the conduction of groundbreaking research noted on both a national and international scale. Today, the University of Wales Aberystwyth has over 7,000 registered students, including over 1,100 postgraduates, across eighteen academic departments.


Scope and content/abstract: The archive contains papers created by various officers of, and departments within, the university, along with associations directly related to the university. These include the Court; Council; Senate; Principal; Registry; Academic faculties; the Library; Old Students' Association; Non Professional Staff Association; and various student associations. The archive also includes the university photographic collection.


Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access: Access to certain series of confidential records may be restricted. The archive may be consulted by application to Dr Ian Salmon at the Academic Office, Old College, King Street, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 2AX; Tel: 01970 622274/2195.

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright regulations apply

Finding aids: Basic finding aids are available at the Old College, University of Wales Aberystwyth.

Language codes: eng wel


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:



Note: Description compiled by Rhian Phillips, Archives Hub project archivist, with reference to Ben Bowen Thomas, Aber: 1872-1972 , (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1972), E L Ellis, The University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1872-1972 , (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1972), and

Rules or conventions: Created following ISAD(G) and Archives Hub Data Creation Guidelines

Date(s) of descriptions: Prior to 16-11-2004

Universities and colleges | Great Britain

Personal names

Corporate names
University of Wales, Aberystwyth


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